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The right to be forgotten - How can you apply?

Negative search engine results can have unpleasant consequences: missing out on an employment opportunity or having to face embarrassing questions from friends or loved ones.  This will seem particularly unfair where the information coming up against a search of your name is, false, misleading or simply very old.

What is the ‘right be forgotten’?

In the context of search engine results, the right to be forgotten is the right for an EU based individual not to have their personal data (normally their name) processed by the search engine, where the processing is “inadequate, irrelevant, no longer relevant or excessive”.

An EU based individual is entitled to request that Google or other search engine operators filter such results against searches of their names.  The content might relate to old media reports, opinions expressed on blogs or bulletin boards or even spent convictions.  The right to be forgotten recognises that outdated information like this should not be returned on a search for an individual’s name.

However Google will NOT remove the information from the source, only from the search results.

Click here to register your right to be forgotten with Google 

The tool itself is relatively simple to use. It requires individuals to submit an online form outlining their removal request details. To complete the form you will need the following:

  • Proof of identity
  • The full web address of the link you wish to be disassociated to
  • The search term i.e. your name.
  • A reason aligned to the EU ruling why you feel the link is ‘irrelevant’, ‘outdated’ or ‘not in the public interest’.

Currently it is only a tool for EU citizens, however laws are being constantly updated. The ruling is also only applicable to individuals, and not to companies or brands.

NOTE: It's not applicable to everyone

The ‘right to be forgotten’ is not an absolute right.  This means that there are circumstances where Google and other search engine operators can refuse to filter results.  Typically, this will be where there is a “preponderant public interest” that overrides an individual’s data rights.

To use an extreme example, it is highly unlikely that an individual convicted of serious sexual offences will be able to satisfy a search engine operator that search results should be filtered.  However, there are many grey areas with this legislation.  For example, where an individual has committed a minor offence and there is a good argument that they should be able to move on with their life without the shackles of adverse search engine results against their name, however so far Google and other search engines are the ones who make that final decision.

In certain cases, preparing a strong submission to Google can be the fine line between an accepted case and a rejected case.